Nurses at Mbagathi Hospital, which has one of the three largest isolation camps for coronavirus (Covid-19) cases, are on a go-slow.
The healthcare professionals are citing lack of adequate coronavirus training and little support to protect their families who they go home to every evening after working near patients that are potentially suffering from the virus.
A spot check at the hospital revealed that, to the outside eye, work was going on but conversations with the caregivers shed light on the complaints by the nurses.
On Friday last week, a nurse broke down in tears about her fears of going back home to her children amid concerns that she could infect them.
The Nation has learnt that an emergency meeting between Nairobi County and the nurses’ union and association has since been called to address the situation.
The health workers are also complaining that the hospitals are not in “crisis mode” yet in some wards since the other departments differ from the isolation wards, and do not have masks or any other protective gear.
This, along with lack of sufficient training, the Nation has learnt, has resulted in panic among health workers who are wearing as many as five masks.
The hospital's administration, including at the neighbouring Kenyatta National Hospital, has been forced to ration masks due to their abuse.
RESEARCHED BEST PRACTICES
The nurses are said to have googled how other countries responded to the pandemic and crafted their own versions of best practices that they communicated to the hospital's administration, but have not received feedback.
They are also concerned that the wards are congested after admitting people with ordinary flu symptoms, therefore putting them and other patients at risk.
Maurice Opetu, Deputy Secretary-general of the Kenya National Union of Nurses, told the Nation: “Any person the nurses meet is a potential risk.”
Mr Opetu said they had requested that movement in the facilities be reduced, and enhanced sanitation measures put in place at the gates of the hospitals.
He said continuous training is needed for other nurses since the few that had undergone refresher courses cannot take care of the whole county.
The nurses had seen that health workers in other countries were in isolation, had gotten life insurance and extra pay for the work that they had to do in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the Coronavirus outbreak in China in December 2019, the disease has spread to more than 120 countries. However, most of the focus has mainly been on the patients and the public, ignoring the critical role that healthcare workers play in managing the disease.
Kenya has now reported three confirmed cases.
President Uhuru Kenyatta made a speech on Sunday about how serious the issue was, but did not say how the government was going to take care of the health workers.
RIGHTS OF HEALTHCARE WORKERS
Their concerns come barely a week after the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a detailed guideline on the rights and responsibilities of healthcare workers in the face of the pandemic.
The 14 rights include providing access to mental health and counselling resources, a need that the nurses say has not been met despite the emotionally and physically draining situations they are exposed to.
Despite the gloom and dread, other counties have since responded to their nurses’ pleas.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu has trained staff, including watchmen, and put water at the entrance of wards.
Uasin Gishu County also issued an order to hospitals that only the most critical people should be allowed to access the wards.
The disease has now infected almost 170,000 people around the globe and killed more than 6,000, with several countries going into lockdown as Europe becomes the new epicentre of the outbreak.